Everyone is using social media and it’s easy to see why. We’re connecting with family, friends and like-minded people from all over the world. News stories are instantaneous. Businesses are growing their brands. It’s a modern day marvel.
On the flip side, we are all aware of the downfalls of online interaction. As new Muslims, what do we need to be aware of when using social media?
1. Angels on Our Shoulder
This should be a Muslim’s first thought as they log in to their account in social media. The pages you choose to view, the comments you decide to post, the angels on your shoulders are recording it.
People tend to behave differently when online, they type comments that they wouldn’t consider uttering out loud, reasoning that virtual reality isn’t ‘real life’. But it is! And we are still accountable.
Man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared. (Quran 50:18)
So, when you get into a disagreement with a faceless name on a Facebook forum make sure that you interact with respect and kindness. Always bear in mind the hadith:
Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good or else keep silent… (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Not only are the angels taking note, but so too is everyone else who reads what you write. You are representing Islam, and people are learning about Islam from you, so make sure you’re a good ambassador.
2. Maintaining a Good Islamic Image in Social Media
Whether we realize or not, whether we like it or not, we are being judged. Most non-Muslims do not go to the Quran or Hadith to learn about Islam, they watch our behavior.
If you are posting about your new lifestyle, commenting on current affairs, and everyone clearly knows that you are a Muslim, then many will believe that your words and actions represent your faith.
If you are open about your new faith then you need to act in a way that does Islam justice.
You may encounter Muslims arguing with each other over age-old matters that will never be resolved. However, they ridicule and mock other people using harsh words. This not only leaves a terrible impression but Allah describes it as evil! Don’t get involved.
O believers! Do not let some men ridicule others, they may be better than them, nor let some women ridicule other women, they may be better than them. Do not defame one another, nor call each other by offensive nicknames. How evil it is to act rebelliously after having faith! And whoever does not repent, it is they who are the true wrongdoers. (Quran 49:11)
We need to behave in a way that is pleasing to Allah and that shows how Islam beautifies our character and manners.
3. New Sisters – Be Wary of Your Inbox
This piece of advice is sad but true. There are men who deliberately seek out new sisters in the West for marriage. Only Allah knows everyone’s intention but we urge sisters to err on the side of caution.
There are many sisters who would be delighted to help you grow in your faith, so please accept their offers of support. If a brother offers to speak to you in private, we advise you to politely decline. Any brother who is sincere in his faith knows that it’s not appropriate.
Stories of sisters who are scammed for money or a passport are sadly too common and we hate to see it happen. In any case, getting married very quickly after you convert to someone you barely know is not a good idea.
4. Don’t Feel Pressured
Social media is now the first port of call for anyone interested in Islam or new Muslims hoping to connect with like-minded people. There are so many pages and groups to choose from that it is easy to find yourself being bombarded by a lot of conflicting information.
You will come across people who tell you that you have to wear hijab/grow a beard immediately, that you can’t spend time with your family for birthdays or Christmas, that you need to distance yourself from your non-Muslim friends because they’re a bad influence, the list goes on.
So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. (Quran 3:159)
Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not harsh, pushy or rude. He didn’t make things hard for the new Muslims, he was gentle, kind and understanding.
Don’t expect to transform overnight. We always say, Islam was revealed over the course of 23 years so ease yourself into the faith, slow and steady wins the race.
If you are brand new to Islam, you need to learn to make wudu and pray. These are your top priorities.
5. Be Wary of Information Overload
This one is very close to my own heart. When I was a new Muslim, I remember being absolutely overwhelmed with all the terminology and Arabic words. I really questioned if it was possible to comfortably follow Islam when there was so much to learn and take on board.
Converting to Islam certainly requires some effort but it doesn’t require stress and anxiety. We ask Allah to help us learn and we do our best, nothing more is required.
I remember, on an online forum, seeing other converts discuss how many chapters of the Quran they had memorized and it left me feeling seriously demoralized. Don’t become influenced by such people, we are all learning at our own rate and it isn’t a competition.
My last piece of advice would be to, certainly, explore Islamic pages on social media but then narrow it down to only a few and stick with that. This is to avoid becoming overloaded with different opinions and information. Choose groups and pages of social media that are friendly, well moderated and feature mainstream, well-known speakers.
May Allah make your experience of the virtual ummah a positive one!